The hypocrites are at it again. Today the mainstream media is touting with great fanfare a new review
claiming to have pinpointed the alleged “bad luck” incidence of cancer at 66%, relegating genetic determinism to a lowly 5% and allowing the rest to environmental factors.
These goofy pseudo-precise numbers are one half of what’s really a confused public relations presentation on the part of the science establishment and the corporate media. For them science is a mish-mash of emotive communications and the numerology of hyper-precise figures, which is what we have here. As usual, the mainstream media follows the lead of the scientists.
This is not actually a new study, but rather the kind of analysis of existing data which pro-corporate scientists disparage when it produces results they don’t like. In this case, it’s a review of a review. The original review in 2015 used statistical rigmarole to claim that most cancers are the purely random result of mutations during cell division and have no other cause. (The same scientists and fanboys who like this notion then turn around and deny that the very high incidence of mutations during any normal genetic engineering procedure is any kind of problem.) But to the discomfort of the researchers, this claim was widely disliked among the public at large. So they took the original back into the shop, made some cosmetic changes, and now have rolled it out with a new coat of paint.
The problem, as the researchers and their supporters are emphasizing today in the media, is that the first study allegedly was misunderstood. By this they mean they flubbed the propaganda presentation. So they needed a do-over. Here’s the opening words
of a Science
commentary published in tandem with the revamped paper:
It is a human trait to search for explanations for catastrophic events and rule out mere “chance” or “bad luck.” When it comes to human cancer, the issue of natural causes versus bad luck was raised by Tomasetti and Vogelstein about 2 years ago. Their study, which was widely misinterpreted as saying that most cancers are due neither to genetic inheritance nor environmental factors but simply bad luck, sparked controversy.
The fact is that throughout this entire presentation, starting with the 2015 original model and continuing today with the remake, the scientists have been unable to avoid talking in philosophical and political terms. This is inherent to the “bad luck” thesis as such, and to all cancer science which seeks to obfuscate cancer’s true environmental causation.
Contrary to the quote above, there was no “misinterpretation”, nor do media popularizers dumb down or sex up the allegedly complex, nuanced things the scientists are saying. The fact is no one propagates the cult of any group of “experts” more relentlessly than the experts themselves. The mainstream media just follows the experts’ lead. As it must, since the media receives all its propaganda themes from the experts themselves. The most inveterate and reckless popularizers are always the experts themselves.
This time they’ll try to do a better job of coaching the media:
“While Tomasetti and Vogelstein’s first paper led to no less than a few hundred papers written in response, their new study appears to be more soothing to the nerves.” That’s what CNN sees in its crystal ball, which reflects back the researchers’ hopes for this time around.
The piece goes on to quote a scientist ally of the research:
“I was concerned about the last article, because it didn’t talk enough about prevention and it left people thinking, ‘Gee you’re just destined to get cancer and you can’t do anything about it,'” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. Brawley, who was not involved in the research said he was “much happier” with the current paper, even if it “doesn’t tell me anything I hadn’t known for the last 20 years.”
“Bert Vogelstein is an incredibly well-respected, well-known cancer biologist who published a paper very similar to this — you might even call it part one of this paper — two years ago,” said Brawley, explaining the original paper caused “quite a stir” because it implied that “almost all cancers were not preventable.”
“And it really upset the anti-smoking people, it upset the folks who are in the nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention — he really upset the prevention crowd,” said Brawley, who believes the new paper is generally a better explanation of the original theory.
This sums up the problem with the original roll-out and is characteristic of the refurbished marketing. Now everyone’s on message in terms of adding politically correct disclaimers about how “lifestyle still matters”, even though they’re really claiming it doesn’t. Meanwhile in their disclaimers they’re focusing completely on mostly voluntary factors like smoking and sun exposure while eliding involuntary exposures like pesticides.
So the orchestration they’re attempting is to put over their formal “bad luck” statistical artifice (Brawley himself in the CNN piece calls it a “mathematical simulation”) while informally contradicting themselves by paying lip service in the media to some environmental factors while saying nothing about others. In this way they hope to do a better job of carrying out their mandate under the corporate science paradigm.
Establishment cancer research has long had the mandate to find that cancer is caused predominantly by non-environmental factors. This is necessary for the continuation of the corporate project, since if the people fully understood how corporate poisons were causing the modern cancer pandemic this might rouse them to overthrow corporate rule and even capitalism itself.
So the basic mission and problem is to suppress the theory and evidence of environmental causality. For a long time corporate normative scientists preferred genetic determinism as their go-to alleged primary cause of cancer. This is part of their general ideological commitment to biological determinism. (This in turn is an epigone of 19th century mechanism in physics; this biological version of the disproven physics was itself already disproven early in the 20th century but remains the mainstream scientific standard to this day.)
But the genetic theory has been so thoroughly debunked
that even the mainstream is looking for an alternative. One candidate has been the “bad luck” theory, that cancer is caused by allegedly “random” mutation.
The first Tomasetti/Vogelstein paper itself was debunked scientifically.
This subsequent study analyzing the original found that intrinsic factors can account for only as much as 10-30% of the incidence of cancer, while as much as 90% of cancers are caused by such extrinsic factors as industrial and agricultural poisons.
Little by little the environmental causation paradigm favored by the World Health Organization’s IARC and other bodies is gaining ground, as the evidence becomes more and more difficult for corporate establishment medicine and science to deny. But as we see in the media today, they’re doing their best to trump up whatever they can in the corporate defense. “Bad luck” is the theme du jour.
The trouble is that they also need to kowtow to both popular prejudice about how people “deserve” what they get, and they need to reckon with simple rationality whose default is that effects have causes. Science, of course, depends completely on the premise of causality. This has put the pro-corporate researchers in a predicament, and therefore they’re trying to say two different, inconsistent things at the same time: Cancer mostly is caused at random, and yet it also has tangible causes, and at any rate can have tangible solutions.
There are four ways that cells randomly mutate during cell division. One of them, called reactive oxygen species or “free radicals” could theoretically be reduced by exposing cells to special antioxidants. Vogelstein says a better understanding of these mutations could open up areas of research to develop these kinds of antioxidant preventative therapies.
This fraudulent depiction of oxidative stress as “random” is typical of corporate science. By contrast, the WHO’s IARC considers oxidative stress as one of the environmental factors causing cancer and applies this to its assessments of pesticides and other cancer agents. There we see one methodological divide between real science and fake corporate science, and an example of why the corporate scientific establishment despises the IARC.
(The bit about special therapies is standard by now: Existing low-tech, low-maintenance solutions which are known to work are simply ignored, while only high-maintenance, highly expensive, low-performing technological “silver bullets” are touted as possible “solutions”*.)
As for the numbers, we see the typical absurdity, the intellectual cul de sac of the corporate science establishment. 66%! Not 65, not 67, 66, get that number of angels dancing on the head of a pin right! All they did was play with numbers, but such research reifies numbers to the point that the researchers think they can arrive at a “real”, precise number, rather than a range like “probably 60-70%.” We see how establishment science indulges in the same mystification of fictive numbers as the entire system under Mammon, which reifies such fictions as GDP, GNP, stock prices, housing prices, corporate profit, money as such, as if those things are real. We see how today’s scientism cult is a branch of the Mammon religion.
(The 5% number for genetically determined cancer is probably in the ballpark, and the paper’s relative accuracy here may evince the researchers’ competitiveness vis fellow corporate normative teams who want to defend the genetic ideology. As for the pseudo-scientific precision of “66%”, it’s appropriate to the methodology of this study, which is nothing more than typical statistical manipulation helped along by fraudulently defined experimental and control groups.)
So far most skeptics are still mired in this same numerological paradigm. They understand that the corporate numbers are fake, but they still have faith that the “real” precision number does exist somewhere out there. Most haven’t yet reached the consciousness that the numerology presupposition is wrong in the first place. Science can identify only ranges of probability, not precise pinhead counts.
As for “bad luck”, like I corrected the quote above, this is not misunderstood by anyone. On the contrary, the only misunderstanding would be actually to believe in the alleged “randomness” of all these mutations, such that it would follow that the more cell divisions, the more cancer one would expect in a straight, two-variable manner. That’s the contention of this line of argument.
But the fact is they have done nothing to delineate true experimental and control groups, and they have literally zero idea how much environmental influence there is on these allegedly “random” mutations. They themselves admit that in cases such as smoking the influence can be quantified. But this is only a most glaring example, and one where they’ve largely surrendered the political fight on behalf of the corporate honor, especially since capitalism has largely been successful in pegging lung cancer from smoking as an individual recklessness rather than the result of systematic corporate marketing and government subsidies.
Reason teaches us that the same causality exists for all the influences, especially industrial and agricultural poisons like pesticides, the defense and justification of which currently is a core campaign of the scientific establishment.
This kind of research has done nothing to delineate true experimental and control groups. To do that an experiment would have to remove all groups from the environment as such. Indeed, when pressed pro-poison activists often throw up their hands and admit it’s impossible to perform an experiment without all the groups being subject to the corrupted environment, and therefore it’s impossible to perform truly rigorous science. It’s the same as when they claim, as they regularly do, that it’s impossible to recruit technically competent personnel for regulatory panels and such who don’t also work for industry. In both cases their contention is that we the people should therefore give up, surrender all hope of legitimate study or oversight, and submit to the most authoritarian extremes of simply believing and doing what we’re told.
It’s true that we the people must relinquish false belief in the corporate regulatory and science establishment. But the answer isn’t to surrender to their false authority. Quite the contrary. We must demolish and abolish completely the authority of those who help to force cancer upon us, as part of abolishing the cancer poisons themselves.
*Consider these axioms of today’s scientific establishment, the “normal science”
it consistently sets out to “prove”:
“Profitable products cannot be toxic or harmful to human health. Only things available freely from nature and labor are toxic.”
“High maintenance, high energy consuming, highly expensive procedures work better than low maintenance, low energy, inexpensive solutions.”
“The right solution to any problem is to escalate the status quo.”
Are any of these rationally plausible? They are not. Quite the contrary, as we know from how evolution works. But as is made abundantly clear on a daily basis, today’s scientists, engineers, their media flacks, and their fanboys all are evolution deniers.
Help propagate the new and necessary ideas.